EXCERPT: Quilts and Human Rights

Quilts and Human Rights (August 2016), by Marsha MacDowell, Mary Worrall, Lynne Swanson, and Beth Donaldson, examines the societal impact of quiltmakers and their quilts in activism and global human rights awareness. With a foreword by Desmond Tutu and 105 color photographs, this book pays tribute to the individuals who have used needle skills to prick the conscience and encourage action against human rights violations. Quilts and Human Rights is currently in production but here is a sneak peek of what’s to come:

Quilts and Human Rights_preface screenshot

Screen shot of the InDesign file of the preface. Full text below. Dec. 10, 2015.

PREFACE from Quilts and Human Rights:

In early 2007 a group of curators, educators, textile specialists, folklorists, and collection managers at the Michigan State University (MSU) Museum were discussing what to do about an unexpected upcoming hole in the museum’s exhibition schedule. As we bandied about ideas that could be done expeditiously, we realized that over the years we had, through various other projects, amassed a small but significant collection of quilts associated with human rights. In fact, we had almost enough to fill the gallery, and we began to search for a few additional ones. As part of our preparation for developing an interpretive plan for the exhibition, we also began to investigate how this collection fit into a history of textiles, specifically quilts, associated with human rights. We were curious about how widespread the engagement with human rights was and whether there were particular styles, traditions, or issues that defined this genre of textile arts.

The exhibition took as its foundation for the selection of quilts and stories the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Prompted by the atrocities committed by German Nazis, the members of the United Nations realized they needed to define human rights that should be expected internationally. In its preamble, the declaration clearly articulated its intent for a world community:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-­operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore the general assembly proclaims this universal declaration of human rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

screen shot of desmond tutu

Screen shot of the foreword by Desmond Tutu currently in production. Dec. 10, 2015.

Preorder the book here.